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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 April 2006, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Ethiopian villagers answer your questions

Composite image of Moyale community in Ethiopia

The BBC News website's Africa editor Russell Smith spent time in the village of Moyale putting your questions to local people via a LIVE laptop link-up.

Photo:Ethiopia
View a 360-degree panorama taken in Moyale


Moyale is a small community in the Borena region of Ethiopia next to the Kenyan border. It is at the heart of a food crisis that has left at least 11m across the Horn of Africa needing aid.

More than one in three people in this barren area - known as the triangle of conflict because of its proximity to the Kenyan and Somali borders - need food aid. Many have lost their cattle, the only wealth they had.

Russell charted the day in the village, as well as asking residents how sustainable their lifestyles are and what their futures might hold.

Russell Smith 1740 local time (1440 GMT / 1540 BST)

The day is drawing to a close here and people are heading home.

Boys dragging a dead cow

A blue bus with several windows missing has stopped outside, bound for Tatesa 12km away. Passengers are trying to crowd in. Boys pile bags of sugar cane and plastic bowls onto the roof.

Passengers keep on piling in - I fear for the suspension which is dangerously low. It should only hold 18 passengers but there are somewhere between 45 and 50.

I saw two goats by the small open door at the back of the bus. Next time I looked they were gone. Naima says they were shoved in unceremoniously.

I asked everyone how they were feeling after spending the daylight hours talking to people from around the world.

Adan Aliyo Abdi
Adan Aliyo: We feel human. They gave us their time and attention and communicated with us as real people and that makes me happy.

Momina: We are really impressed that we can share our problems with the world.

Momina Gababo
It is amazing to think that people across the world are interested in our problems. We did not think we would get this attention. To everyone I say "galatoma", which is Oromo for "thank you".

Tato Boru
Tato: Before there was no one to listen to women - but now we feel really impressed that we can speak to people around the world.

Naima: I am really impressed.

Naima Idris
I didn't imagine people would be interested in our problems. Somehow the internet has made me think the world is smaller and that one day I can use it and visit more places.

Question from Abomsa, Addis Ababa to the villagers, 1722 local time (1422 GMT / 1522 BST)

Q: Last week Prime Minister Meles reported that the the government has been successful in what they have done with the pastoral community. As far as my knowledge is concerned, Borena is one of the largest pastoral communities in Ethiopia. Is there really any success?

Tato: Before the 2005 elections when the opposition did well in Moyale, I felt we were forgotten by the government. However lately I feel there is some indication of improvement.

Adan Aliyo: We haven't seen anything very tangible on this issue.

Question from Steve Medley, Leeds, UK to the villagers, 1720 local time (1420 GMT / 1520 BST)

Q: Hi to everyone in the village! Would you agree that the problems faced by the war, drought and food shortages are compounded by the problem of Aids? How much does the government do in trying to prevent this disease, by way of education and in the provision of medical services for testing and treating the disease?

Adan Aliyo: Most people aren't really aware about Aids here.

Tato Boru
Tato: We know a bit about it and an Aids education office tells people in Moyale, but not outside in Borena.

Momina: I think many people in rural areas are dying of Aids. If a man dies and then his wife and mistress die we suspect it is from Aids. The symptoms are known - skin disorders, getting thinner, diarrhoea.

Naima: We were told in school about safe sex and how Aids is caught, but this is limited to the town.

Question from François Loeliger, Lima, Peru to the villagers, 1719 local time (1419 GMT / 1519 BST)

Q: What would be the most poignant health problems in your region?

All: Malaria, diarrhoea and typhoid. (They also suspect HIV/Aids to be a problem.)

Question from Adi Harris, Strathaven to the villagers, 1715 local time (1415 GMT / 1515 BST)

Q: Is there any religious conflict and tension in your village between Muslims and Christians? How does that affect you and your families?

Momina Gababo
Momina: Tensions are between ethnic groups, not between Muslims and Orthodox Christians.

Most Ethiopian Somalis are Muslims. The Borena are adherents of traditional beliefs, such as Wakefana.

Question from Amy Russell, Wellington to the villagers, 1705 local time (1405 GMT / 1505 BST)

Q: What are the most important things that you would like people in other parts of the world to know and understand about your community?

Tato: Health problems and a shortage of facilities.

Adan Aliyo Abdi
Adan Aliyo: Conflict and all the problems we experience in trying to get an education.

Momina: Drought and food shortages.

Naima: Shortage of good schooling and health problems.

Question from Donald Shelley, Grimsby to Naima, 1658 local time (1358 GMT / 1458 BST)

Q: I live in a small fishing town in a very cold part of Britain. Many people here in Europe worry about migration from Africa to our continent. A lot of people in different parts of Africa are attracted to work in Europe, if only for a few years.

Have you or your friends thought about leaving home for a life abroad, and how important is money or earnings from abroad to an area like yours?

Naima Idris
Naima: It is my dream to work abroad as it would enable me to make more money and change not only my life but also my that of my parents and family members.

There are many who do this - most in England. I know a lady called Amina who is helping her parents this way but I do not know what she does for work.

Russell Smith 1653 local time (1353 GMT / 1453 BST)

The sun is back out. We are near a bus stop and large groups of women and children are patiently sitting about. One girl is chopping sugar cane with a machete.

Tato is back and sadly found that an eight-month-old baby girl, Salade, died of starvation and the elements this morning. People are subdued after hearing the news. It is the fourth death within the last two to three days.

Question from Emelie, London to the villagers, 1646 local time (1346 GMT / 1446 BST)

Q: How much aid do you feel you are receiving right now?

Group in Moyale
Tato and Momina are wearing traditional outfits

Momina: The numbers of people helped is limited and they get 20kg of wheat per household.

Adan Aliyo: Those who were helped in the Somali region got 15kg. The aid is coming from the government's DPPC (Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission) and the sacks have European Community and USAid written on them.

Question from El Pollo Diablo, Loughborough, UK to the villagers, 1629 local time (1329 GMT / 1429 BST)

Q: What is the psychological effect of having a drought or famine every so often? Do you manage to stay positive, or is it too stressful?

Momina Gababo
Momina: We feel great sorrow. We try to be optimistic and take care of our animals but it is hard. Some people become mentally ill because of the distress they feel when they cannot feed their children.

Naima Idris
Naima: We get everything we want from the rural areas and so when they suffer, we do too. You can see the distress on my friends' faces. We talk about our problems but not as often as our parents.

Question from Yohannes, Switzerland to the villagers, 1626 local time (1326 GMT / 1426 BST)

Q: How much money do you need to send a child to school?

Momina: The best schools cost some 400 birr ($50) per month. To go to a normal school instead costs about 40 birr ($5) per month.

Question from Mike Teitelbaum, New Zealand to the villagers, 1609 local time (1309 GMT / 1409 BST)

Q: What groups (NGOs and international religious organisations) have been most helpful to your communities? What organisations would you like to see more of in your area?

Adan Aliyo Abdi
Adan Aliyo: Concerning peace building, Oxfam America and their local partner Research Centre for Civics and Human Rights Education (RCCHE) help. Oxfam also does water projects and animal feeding working with Action for Development and the Gayo Pastoralist Development Initiative.

Save the Children do child health projects and help with animal feeding programmes.

Italian group LVIA, funded by the EU, has built two abattoirs.

Question from Simon Pope, London to the villagers, 1553 local time (1253 GMT / 1353 BST)

Q: I work for a charity called Spana and we have been working with the Practical Action group to deliver animal feed to the Mandera region of northern Kenya. This is because something like 70% of all livestock has died in the drought.

We have great problems convincing bigger aid agencies that preserving livelihood assets like goats, donkeys and camels is an important part of emergency relief. Can you tell me just how important they are to your lives so that we can make this argument stronger.

Adan Aliyo: Almost all the cattle are dead. It would have been better to provide cattle feed before the disaster.

Momina Gababo
Momina: Livestock is everything for us. We get everything we want from them.

If we sell the butter and milk we earn money. Also oxen help us with our farmland. It's too late here for animal feed distribution though.

Question from Rob, Cambridge to the villagers, 1549 local time (1249 GMT / 1349 BST)

Q: I am studying developing economics, and I understand land distribution to be a serious problem in parts of Africa. Is the land you farm under your ownership? And do you support each other within the community? All the best.

Adan Aliyo Abdi
Adan Aliyo: In principle land is owned by the government. So people just use it.

I have plots I can use if the climate is convenient.

Russell Smith 1511 local time (1211 GMT / 1311 BST)

The rain has begun - but it's just a light shower at the moment.

Tato has left for an hour to help a family that has lost a child because of the drought. We have heard today of four deaths in the past couple of days. It's hard for people to give up their days to talk on the internet.

Question from Ian Caddy to the villagers, 1501 local time (1201 GMT / 1301 BST)

Q: I spent a month in Ethiopia last year and found it a truly beautiful place. My visit seemed to bring much needed money into the local economy. But in times of hardship such as this, do you appreciate having tourists as a source of income or do they just buy whatever food is available with no tangible local benefit?

Compared to Kenya there is very little tourism in Ethiopia; do you think it is a good way to bring in money and increase international awareness of environmental and political problems?

Adan Aliyo: We know tourism is helpful for the country but there is nothing to see here. There's only us!

Question from Martha, Norway to Momina, 1449 local time (1149 GMT / 1249 BST)

Cattle
Weak cattle mean that their trading prices plummet

Q: What could be done to make it more profitable being a cattle trader? How is the market for cattle in Ethiopia compared to Kenya? Is it difficult to trade on both sides of the border? What other business do you think could be profitable for the Borena?

Momina: If we can feed them well then we can sell them for a good price. However, there are restrictions on cross-border cattle trading.

Tato: Education is the key to how to feed cattle well.

Question from Alex, UK to the villagers, 1444 local time (1144 GMT / 1244 BST)

Q: Hi to everyone there. Having read about each of you I see there is quite a contrast between the older generation, who have many children, and the younger girl who is 19 but is not married and has not started a family.

Is there a big change in culture happening, with women wanting fewer children, and if so, how do the different generations think this might affect the future?

Naima Idris
Naima: New generations know that having too many children has bad economic consequences. I want to have only two children.

Momina: I want to have just one more and then that's it - six in total.

Question from Kevin, Hong Kong to Momina, 1430 local time (1130 GMT / 1230 BST)

Q: You all strike me as very rational people. Momina, it is most admirable of you to take in five orphans in addition to five of your own. But I'd really love to know the rationale behind wanting to have more children in a tough time like this.

All resources are limited, including the monetary help we can give. Do you not think that having more children in your situation would outstretch the already limited resources for you, your livestock and your village?

Momina Gababo
Momina: After I have completed educating the first-born, they will move on to the next stage and they will be gone. And so then it will mean I will have the resources needed to support the new children behind them.

Question from Mark Lavender to the villagers, 1428 local time (1128 GMT / 1228 BST)

Q: I originate in South Africa although I now live partly in England and partly in Germany. I think Africans are often portrayed as victims by journalists in developed countries. How helpful is that to you? What do you think you can do to change your situation for the better? Is there anything that can be done together with other people?

Momina Gababo
Momina: It is good to get international attention and help from wealthy people as well as understanding but of course you are right - we don't want to be seen as hopeless people.

It is so difficult though and we do feel hopeless at times. How can we feel hopeful in this situation? It takes a lot.

Question from anonymous Ethiopian, Addis Ababa to the villagers, 1420 local time (1120 GMT / 1220 BST)

Q: I am sad to say that the majority of Addis Ababans don't know that there is a food shortage where you live in the south. I really want to know what your community is thinking about your future? Do elders in your community meet and discuss to find long-term solutions to the problem? God be with you.

Adan Aliyo Abdi
Adan Aliyo: During the drought our elders advised us to concentrate on the strong cattle. They also told us to dig water wells and save as much water as possible.

Question from Louise Edwards, UK to the villagers, 1418 local time (1118 GMT / 1218 BST)

Q: The wonders of technology never cease to amaze me! If you had five minutes to speak to US President George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair what would you want to say to them?

Adan Aliyo: We would tell them our problems and ask for support.

Tato: I would ask them to resolve the problems in Moyale and the region.

Momina: I'd talk to them about peace and health and education and poverty.

Naima Idris
Naima: I would tell them about our problems especially with the current administration that is confused by the fact that Moyale is divided between the Somalis and the Borena.

Question from Annette G, Venetico Marina, Italy to Tato and Momina, 1413 local time (1113 GMT / 1213 BST)

I would like to know what you feed your children. How many meals a day are you able to provide? This is the kind of issue my children can relate to. I so much want them to grow up being aware of other people's real needs, being grateful for all they have and willing to share and give. Thank you.

Tato Boru
Tato: Young children get milk till they are three years old, and then maize once a day. Sometimes though there is no maize and so we can only give them milk.

Momina: We feel sad that we cannot provide more. We have no choice.

Question from Alison Etter, Halifax to the villagers, 1408 local time (1108 GMT / 1208 BST)

Q: I would like to know what do you like about your community and your way of life? What are its best features? What in your life brings you joy? What do you consider is your greatest hope for the future? Thank you. Blessings to you.

Boys dragging a dead cow

Momina: Good health makes me happy and I enjoy my children. Relative peace at the moment is also good. I wish for my children to have a good life.

Tato: I wish for peace and for better markets so that meat and skin can be made use of here in Moyale. If I can educate my children properly that would be good.

Naima: I wish for better education. I have little to be happy about.

Question from Lauren, Seattle, USA to the villagers, 1404 local time (1104 GMT / 1204 BST)

Q: Would micro-loans to individuals in the area be of help in making a transition out of a dependency on a pastoral lifestyle? What kinds of outreach programs would you suggest would be most helpful to remedy this unfortunate situation?

Adan Aliyo: Loans would be a good idea so we could invest in businesses.

Question from Joan, Chapel Hill, USA to the villagers, 1353 local time (1053 GMT / 1153 BST)

Q: My husband and I are adopting an Ethiopian baby whose parents passed away. We'll be travelling there from the US to bring him home in a month or so. I know many other families who are also adopting Ethiopian orphans. What do you think of people from other countries adopting Ethiopian children?

Tato: We do not have a problem with it.

Russell Smith 1349 local time (1049 GMT / 1149 BST)

I am now back from the local barber. They have a generator and kindly let me use it to charge the laptop. Now we'll be able to answer more of your questions.

Question from Allen Coulson, London to the villagers, 1316 local time (1016 GMT / 1116 BST)

Q: How many of the young people are leaving the community and do the ones that leave ever return to stay?

Map of Horn of Africa

Naima: Many young children, educated or uneducated, go to Nairobi in search of unemployment and many end up as house servants there. A very small number migrate to Europe or America.

Many others suffer here at home in Moyale. They collect leftover food from hotels [small inns and eating venues] or beg for money.

Momina Gababo
Momina: I know more than 280 young children from Kebennawa, near Moyale, who migrated to Nairobi. These children have little or no support from their respective families because of poverty. If they get jobs they send money home to assist their parents.

Tato Boru
Tato: Even my first born son, who is 27 years old, left his wife and children for Nairobi to get a job but he didn't succeed. Now both his children and wife are grieving. I'm sorry that I cannot help them.

Question from Santiago Dammert, Lima, Peru to Naima, 1207 local time (0907 GMT / 1007 BST)

Q: I sympathise with your situation, and would like to propose a possible solution. Maybe you could work in your father's bus enterprise for some time. You could get a loan from an NGO and make it grow and when you have the money, move elsewhere to study and work.

Naima Idris
Naima: My father would not let me.

It would be best if I had my own bus I think.

Question from Laura, Ottawa, Canada to the villagers, 1127 local time (0827 GMT / 0927 BST)

Q: What an amazing opportunity. Hi!

What solutions do you think are needed to focus on peace?

Tato Boru: Peace is a priority. Nowadays, conflict is born in the urban areas but those who kill and die are those in rural areas. We propose that the urbanites should stop their destructive deeds and the rural people should also be sensitised for peace and brotherhood.

Adan Aliyo Abdi
Aden Aliyo: Earlier, in rural areas, spears and shields were frequently used as war weapons. Nowadays, AK-47, G-3, and others cause greater destruction.

During the downfall of the military government in Ethiopia, many guns were sold to the people. Since then, the rural people get guns from Somalia and even as far as southern Sudan. Therefore, the problem of widespread firearms should be dealt with to bring peace.

Question from Debebe Dessalegne, UK to the villagers, 1114 local time (0814 GMT / 0914 BST)

Asked and answered in the Oromo language

Q: Gafe reko akana keyesa Jheri gaalla fi Re ee kan qabu namaa loni kofa keqabura inwaya mo hundinu tekuma. Beye Boran kenchalu gomojida roban guya egede endufu hatahumo wantino robu chita engeya nafekata kenafi midan bikiltchu atam dendeyema? Rebi hasinigergaru ya firota tiya.

Q: Do you think that people who own camels and goats are coping better with this catastrophe than those who rely on cattle only? Given the extent of arid land and the erratic nature of rainfall in the region how do you justify the introduction of crop farming?

Momina Gababo
Momina Gabaaboo: Obboleessa keenya Debebe qoonqoo kee dhaggenyee baay'ee gammannee jirra. Yoo oolaan buutu loon irra re'eefi gala waayya. Loon hagi isaanii haguma marra lafaa nyaatrani, bishaan illee otoo hin dhugin ooluu hin danda'an. Gaalliifi re'een garuu baala mukaa nyaachuu danda'u, dheebuu illee ni dandamatu kanaaf gaalliifi re'een caala filatamu.

Momina: Dear brother Debebe we are very pleased to hear from you. Unlike camels and goats, cattle require frequent watering and plenty of forage to survive. Camels and goats can thrive on scanty browse and can tolerate diseases much better than cattle.

Adan Aliyo Abdi
Aden Aliyo: Bishaan fulaa tokkotti walitti qabanii haroo tarsaasanii yoo kuusan achirraa janareetaraan harkisanii jallisiif oolchuun ni danda'ama jedheen amana. Kun looniifi galaaf illee baay'ee dansaa ta'a. Kana biratti gabgayaan horii illee otoo nuuf babal'atee ni fedhii qabna. Hakimiin horii illee bay'ee barbaachisaadha.

Adan Aliyo: We could cultivate crops if small-scale irrigation were introduced. If we could store run-off water in covered ponds from the little rains we receive, it could be pumped out to irrigate the crops. We could also use some of it to water our cattle. Better cattle marketing outlets and animal health services could also improve our lives.

Tato Boru
Xaaxoo Boru: Bokkayi naannoo keenyaa amansiisaa waan hintaaneef jallisiin otoo babal'atee ooyiruu qotachuun ni danda'ama ture.

Tato: Our dear friend though very limited, cultivation of crops is not new to our area. It would be possible to farm crops if some assistance were available.

Russell Smith 1039 local time (0739 GMT / 0839 BST)

Ibrahim Ali
Ibrahim cannot take part today because his 19-year-old son has tragically died

Some bad news.

Ibrahim Ali cannot make it because his 19-year-old son died yesterday. He was swept away and drowned in the late morning while returning from school in Kenya during the heavy rains.

There's still no sign of Bora or Aden. However, we do have someone to replace Ibrahim.

He is an Ethiopian Somali called Adan Aliyo Abdi. He is 35 and already has seven children. He is also involved in peace efforts and works as a guard in Moyale earning 800 birr (just under $100) a month.

Question from Shannon, US to the villagers, 1002 local time (0702 GMT / 0802 BST)

Q: It is so good to be able to communicate with all of you, on the other side of the world. What is the best way for foreigners to help you? I know many people who would like to help, but just are not sure how. What can we do? Best of luck to all of you.

Tato Boru
Tato: Now that we have understood we need to educate our children, the problem is that we have a shortage of schools and colleges, so help with that would be good in the long term. In the short term we need some support because of the drought.

Momina Gababo
Momina: There are problems with health facilities here. Better clinics and more doctors would be good. Unemployment among men is also high - jobs are vital.

Russell Smith 1000 local time (0700 GMT / 0800 BST)

It's a muggy day and rain is likely at some point. We have also heard that the power will be off until 1800 local time, which is not good when I only have three hours' life in my laptop - so I'll need to be creative.

Momina Tato and Naima are all here early so we are getting under way without the men. A small crowd is gathering to watch - I wonder how long they'll stay to watch someone type into a laptop!

Composite image of Moyale community in Ethiopia




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